Can an Illinois DUI get expunged? The answer to this question may soon change

Can an Illinois DUI get expunged?  The general answer is no, unless there was a finding of not guilty or it was otherwise dismissed.  A DUI sentence of supervision is not eligible for expungement.

This is one of the many situations where DUI offenses are treated differently than other similar offenses.  Most other misdemeanor offenses are expungeable.  Even some felonies, particularly drug offenses, are also eligible for expungement, because our legislature and courts are recognize the benefit of giving people a chance at a clean slate, and not penalizing people forever, especially over an addiction issue.

DUIs were barred from expungement during the “tough on crime” 1990s.  Over the past few years, the pendulum has been swinging back and I have been hopeful that Illinois would give some hope to past DUI offenders.

Now, it looks like it might.

The synopsis of HB 1634 and an amendment state as follows:

Amends the Criminal Identification Act. Provides that a person may petition for sealing or expungement for a violation of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a similar provision of a local ordinance after a period of 10 years after the termination of the petitioner’s sentence if the petitioner has not been arrested for, or convicted of, a subsequent violation.

House Committee Amendment No. 1
Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Amends the Criminal Identification Act. Provides that the court may not order the sealing or expungement of the records of arrests or charges not initiated by arrest that result in an order of supervision for or conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or compounds or any combination thereof (DUI) under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance; except that the court may order the sealing of one misdemeanor record of arrest or charge not initiated by arrest that results in an order of supervision for or conviction of DUI under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance per petitioner if each of the following conditions have been met: (1) the petitioner has not previously been convicted of or placed on supervision for DUI under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance; (2) 10 or more years have passed since the termination of the petitioner’s sentence; (3) during the commission of the violation, the petitioner did not proximately cause death or personal injury to any other person or damage the property of any other person and was not arrested for a violation of resisting or obstructing a peace officer; (4) during the arrest or stop of the petitioner by a law enforcement officer for commission of the violation, the petitioner submitted to a test under the Illinois Vehicle Code to determine whether the petitioner was driving under the influence when requested by a law enforcement officer; (5) the petitioner has no other misdemeanor or felony driving charge on his or her driving abstract; and (6) the judge examined the driving abstract of the petitioner petitioning to have his or her records sealed under this provision and made a finding entered on the record that the petitioner did not enter into a plea agreement on a lesser charge other than a DUI under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance, and the facts did not support that the petitioner had previously committed a DUI under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance.

I’ve been informed by a member of the Illinois State Bar Association that the Office of the Secretary of State opposes this bill.  Hopefully, an agreement can be reached so that a person who gets a DUI (often a young person in their 20’s) does not have to worry about it staying on his or her record for the rest of his or her life, costing employment and other opportunities.

Governor signs new bills to give felons a second chance

From the News-Gazette:

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn signed a series of bills Saturday he said will help ex-offenders get jobs so they can stay out of prison and become productive members of society.

The Chicago Democrat said the measures also will give judges and prosecutors more options for sentencing non-violent criminals. He noted more than half of Illinois inmates return to prison within three years of their release, many because they go back to committing crimes to provide for themselves or their families.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison,” Quinn said during a ceremony at a church on Chicago’s South Side. “These new laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier.”

The measures also could help Quinn gain support among progressive voters in advance of a 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, also a Chicago Democrat, has said he’s running against Quinn. Four Republicans have announced they’re running: state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

The three bills signed into law Saturday were approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature with bipartisan support.

One measure increases a tax credit for employers who hire qualified ex-offenders to $1,500 per employee. It previously was capped at $600. Employers may take the credit for up to five years. It applies to any ex-offender hired within three years of their release from prison.

Rep. Art Turner, a Chicago Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said he’s hopeful more employers will take advantage of the credit.

“Programs like this must be part of a creative approach to reducing recidivism and addressing the larger challenges of unemployment and violence in our communities,” he said.

Another bill creates a “second-chance probation” option for non-violent offenders. It allows some convictions to be cleared from a person’s record after successful completion of at least two years of probation. It was sponsored by Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, the Republican leader in the Illinois House, and Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat.

The other legislation ensures motions to seal or expunge a criminal record are heard in a timely manner and that court orders are delivered to the proper authorities.

Saturday’s bill signings come one day after Quinn signed legislation to add several non-violent felonies to the list of offenses for which records may sealed. The offenses include theft, retail theft, forgery, possession of burglary tools and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. Previously records were only eligible to be sealed for people convicted of prostitution or drug possession.

The measure also easily passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature, despite concerns from some critics that it would prevent employees from knowing whether they may be hiring someone with a criminal history.

The new law requires a person to wait four years from the termination of their last sentence before asking for their records to be sealed. They also would have to pass a drug test within 30 days before filing their petition to seal. If a judge grants the petition, the sealed records can no longer be seen by most potential employers or other members of the public, except by court order. Law enforcement agencies, however, still have access, and if the person is later convicted of another crime the court may order their sealed records to be unsealed.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat and a chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement the legislation will help people who have been convicted of crimes to leave behind the stigma of a criminal conviction.

“When people have served their sentences, public safety and a sense of humanity demand that we give them the opportunities they need to stay out of prison — a genuine chance at an education, a job and a future,” Raoul said.

The lead sponsor in the Illinois House was Rep. LaShawn Ford, also a Chicago Democrat. Ford is under indictment for bank fraud but those charges were filed in federal court, so the legislation would not apply to him if he is convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Information from the General Assembly’s website about the bills is available online here: SB1659, HB3010, HB2470 and HB3061.

Illinois Legislature votes to expand eligibility for sealing criminal records

Both the Illinois House and Senate have approved a new bill that would expand the types of felonies that are available to be sealed from public view.  Under the change, courts could seal convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices and forgery, possession of burglary tools and small amounts of cannabis, controlled substances, methamphetamine ingredients, steroids, so long as it was the person’s only conviction and they have not had any arrests in four years.The bill now awaits Governor Quinn’s signature in order to become law.

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Robert McCoppin):

Lawmakers have approved a proposal that would significantly expand the list of felony convictions that people seeking to escape their criminal pasts could ask to have sealed.

The measure, which aims to give ex-offenders a better shot at jobs, housing and education, awaits a decision by Gov. Pat Quinn on whether to sign it into law.

The bill would require convicts to have a clean record for at least four years. If so, they could ask a judge to seal their convictions from the public, so only law enforcement officials, judges and professional license regulators could see them.

Currently, the law generally allows the sealing of convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors and only two felonies — prostitution and the possession of small amounts of drugs.

The proposed changes would allow the courts to seal from the public record convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices and forgery, as well as convictions for lower-level possession of cannabis, controlled substances, methamphetamine ingredients, steroids and burglary tools.

The changes could offer a chance for clean records to a much broader swath of people than the small percentage of convicts who are now eligible.

“This would be huge,” said defense attorney Matt Fakhoury, a former prosecutor who specializes in clearing up past convictions.

“People are most frustrated when their economic opportunities are limited because of the trouble they got themselves into when they were younger,” he said. “It’s going to give them hope for a brighter economic future.”

Perhaps the most common violation that shadows low-level offenders, Fakhoury said, is retail theft. Under current law, walking out without paying for a pair of jeans worth more than $150 could result in a felony conviction that would follow someone the rest of his or her life.

Almost half of prior offenders without jobs commit another crime, compared with only 8 percent of those who have jobs — yet most employers won’t hire someone with any kind of criminal conviction, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The bill also sets the criteria that judges may consider in weighing such cases, including the petitioner’s age, criminal and work history, and how long it’s been since the last offense.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill. Ford said the subject is important for minorities, who are often denied jobs because of criminal records. He said that may lead to them becoming tax burdens rather than taxpayers.

Ford himself has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges, but they are at the federal level and would not be affected by the legislation.

“We should do everything we can to give people a second chance,” he said. “That’s what this country is about — opportunity.”

Opponents raised concerns about keeping offenders accountable for their actions, but Ford said under the bill anyone who commits another crime would have their records made public and could never seal them again.

After negotiations with lawmakers and prosecutors to remove more serious crimes from the bill, Ford said, some opponents dropped their objections and the bill passed with some bipartisan support. The Senate approved it 42-13 last week. The Illinois attorney general and Cook County state’s attorney took no public position on the idea, and neither has the governor’s office, Quinn spokesman David Blanchette said.